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Wednesday
Nov212018

THE LOST SOUL THAT FOUND THE LIGHT

It is a common enough sight to see R’ Shimi Goldstein sitting “one on one” with a backpacker whose hair has not met a pair of scissors in years, his clothes in tatters, and delving deeply with complete sincerity into the words of the Arizal cited in Tanya, “that even in the truly inanimate like stones, dust and water, there is an aspect of spirit and spiritual life force.”

R’ Goldstein is a shliach of the Rebbe in the city of Pushkar in India. Every day he gives a Tanya shiur to the many Israeli tourists who visit the Chabad House that he runs. Thanks to the classes of R’ Goldstein, many of them have drawn close to a life of Torah and mitzvos, and over the years, dozens have established Chassidic homes in the fullest sense. And it all starts with the classes that he gives.

However, it turns out that the secret of his success is not necessarily in the classes themselves, as he explains:

Every night at seven, we begin the regularly scheduled Tanya shiur for the visitors to the Chabad House. Some come to eat, some come because they have become attached to the place, some come because a friend “dragged” them, each one and his motives. And many of them sit down to participate in the shiur.

To me, the shiur is a means to an end. Generally, there are about twenty participants in each shiur, and among them I can discern one or two who are really touched, it speaks to their souls, and they are ripe to receive and absorb the depth of the Chassidic concepts.

However, the main work begins after the shiur, to grab the one or two who are truly interested, for personal chavrusa study. To my mind, there is nothing like the power of a chavrusa. A person can participate in a Chassidus or Tanya class for twenty years and he will not be budged at all on the level of action.

Even when I encounter two or three in a shiur who connect to the depth of the messages, I learned from experience not to lump them together into one class, but to establish a chavrusa with each one individually. Chavrusa means to farbreng with him on his level and in his language. The connection with a chavrusa is much stronger and he is really there with you, whereas in a shiur it is in the category of makif. A chavrusa relationship is an entirely different world than a general class.

The following story is the story of a neshama, which testifies beyond all else to the influence of the Tanya in particular, and Chassidus in general, on the soul of a Jew.

***

One day, a Jew who appeared rather youthful walked into the Chabad House, though he was actually at least sixty-five years old. He was in the middle of a tour with his wife to various cities throughout India.

When he came to the Chabad House, he happened to sit down with a cup of coffee at the table where R’ Goldstein was sitting and learning Tanya in a chavrusa with a young man, one of the many thousands who pass through the Chabad House in Pushkar every year. Out of the corner of his eye, R’ Goldstein perceived that the guest was listening in attentively. This attentiveness continued for quite some time after he had sat down. Based on his keen sense and years of experience, R’ Goldstein understood that the listener was moved emotionally.

When they finished learning, the tourist got up and excitedly asked if he could join their regular chavrusa study. R’ Goldstein was apprehensive and tried to dodge the request. He preferred to continue learning privately with the young man who had shown a real seriousness in his learning, and not with some drop-in tourist who got excited in the moment when it might be nothing more than that. Instead, he suggested to the guest that he join the general class that took place in the evenings, where everybody sits around the table and listens. He added that he is already far into his learning with this chavrusa, and that he only learns privately with those who have been in the Chabad House for some time.

Nothing helped. The man insisted and said that he absolutely must… At this point, he introduced himself as Bar Shapiro.

From that point onward, he came every morning to the Chabad House and joined the chavrusa in the study of Tanya, as he listened avidly and took in every word with a real thirst. His passion only grew from day to day.

The clarity of the words of Tanya deeply pierced his heart and soul, and he began to come closer to Jewish practice, to the point that he changed his travel plans and decided to stay in Pushkar to learn more Tanya. “He was so immersed in the learning,” recounts R’ Goldstein, “to the extent that one morning he came to the Chabad House in a panic, and told me that he had a dream that night in which he was doing battle with the yetzer ha’ra, and that during the dream the yetzer ha’ra grabbed his hand and pinched it so that he woke up with black and blue marks…”

Over time, during his journey to full Jewish practice, he came to the realization that he could not continue living with his wife, since he is a Kohen and she was a divorcee. This was not a simple matter at all.

After a lengthy process of learning and growing, the two returned to Eretz Yisroel. He understood that he had to make a weighty decision, very weighty indeed. With mesirus nefesh, he took the leap and made the decision to forgo married life with her. This decision led not only to the loss of his married life, but to all of his money as well.

Concurrently, he made the decision to go to yeshiva and immerse himself in the study of Torah. He joined a yeshiva, where he made his place without a wife and without money, the main thing being to fully return to his Father in Heaven. He continued on this amazing journey for a few years, until his life turned completely upside down.

Last year, he was diagnosed with a fatal illness, and five months later he returned his soul to his Maker.

Who among us can pretend to know the power of a neshama?

May this story be a merit for the elevation of his soul.

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